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Airplane Lessons vs. Helicopter Lessons: Which is Superior?

If you’re interested in enrolling in flight school, you may be faced with the dilemma of choosing to learn in an airplane or helicopter. Both offer a unique, fun way of flying, but airplane lessons and helicopter lessons are actually quite different. 


Here’s a breakdown of airplane lessons vs. helicopter lessons and which is superior.


Is it easier to fly a helicopter or plane? 

Overall, flying an airplane is much easier than flying a helicopter, particularly for beginners, and there are a few reasons why. The nature of a helicopter is unstable — there is a need for the pilot to have constant control of the aircraft at all times, from the moment the engines are fired until the rotary blades stop turning once back on the ground. The pilot must also have a heightened awareness of their flight plan; since helicopters fly low, reaching only about 12,000 feet until pressurization is required, pilots must know the terrain below and obstacles along the route like buildings, mountains and even trees.  


Airplanes on the other hand are much easier to pilot than a helicopter. While landing and take-off require a lot of practice and are done manually, autopilot makes the act of flying from destination to destination fairly easy. In the air, many pilots will often take that time to go through checklists, review airport arrival procedures and make adjustments to their flight plan. In a helicopter, the pilot is expected to have their hands on the controls at all times and be actively engaged in every second of the flight. 


It’s perhaps summed up best by this: many trained pilots are able to fly back-to-back, hours-long flights and not be fatigued at all. Just a few hours flying a helicopter, however, is mentally and physically draining. 

Is flying a helicopter more dangerous than an airplane?

Since helicopters are generally harder to fly than airplanes, they also are more dangerous to fly. According to some of the most recent data from the National Transit Safety Board (NTSB), the rate of accidents during instructional flights, when pilots are just learning, is twice as high for helicopters as for airplanes: 12.69 accidents per 100,000 hours versus 6.08 accidents per 100,000 hours. Overall, helicopter crashes are more frequent than airplanes, as well. Helicopters crash about 35 percent more often per hour in the air than your average aircraft.


This is mainly because a helicopter pilot has many things to control — such as the joystick that moves the chopper forward and backward, the collective control that moves it up and down, anti-torque pedals that turns the nose horizontally and the throttle which powers the engine. That’s not to mention all of the other things that need to be monitored, such as terrain, other air traffic and flight panel gauges. 


What’s the cost difference of helicopter lessons vs. airplane lessons?

Obtaining your fixed-wing license is more affordable than a rotary license. For those that are just beginning their flight school journey, you can expect to pay approximately $20,000 – $30,000 to reach the FAA minimum of 40 hours flight time for a private rotary certification. This certification gives you the ability to legally pilot a small single-engine helicopter under VFR on your own.


For a fixed-wing private certification that lets you pilot a single-engine airplane, a student should expect to pay between $7,000 – $15,000 to meet the required hours. It’s cheaper to learn on an airplane because rental rates as well as instructor fees are much lower — sometimes around half as expensive.


Flying an airplane or a helicopter: the decision

While both offer their own unique set of challenges, when it comes down to it, flying an airplane is easier, safer and less expensive to learn than a helicopter. No matter which path you choose, have fun and be safe! 

Are you ready to fly your own airplane?

If learning to fly has been a lifelong dream for you, the team at Inflight Pilot Training can help make it a reality. We have a superior reputation among flight schools in Minneapolis/St. Paul, with a track record of producing the best and safest pilots in the entire state. We’re committed to keeping our programs fun and affordable for all and will help put you on the right path when it comes to learning to fly.

For additional information on Inflight training programs, contact us today or call (952) 698-3000.